PM Lee stresses housing affordability, elderly welfare, and upholding trust in National Day address

PM Lee stresses housing affordability, elderly welfare, and upholding trust in National Day address

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 2023 National Day Message. The message was recorded at SkyOasis@Dawson in Queenstown and telecast on 8 August 2023.

My Fellow Singaporeans:

Singapore turns 58 this year. Our nation may be young, but it has seen its fair share of challenges. Yet each time, the Singapore spirit shone through, and we emerged stronger and more united. I am confident this spirit will continue to hold us together, even amidst troubling times.

Inflation is still a problem for us, as it is for many countries. Households and businesses are all feeling the pinch of rising prices. The Government has enhanced the Assurance Package and many other support measures to cushion the impact on you, especially the middle- and lower-income households. The storm may not blow over soon. But however long it lasts, you know this Government will weather it together with you.

Good Government, Trust, and Integrity

Recently, we have seen a series of cases involving Ministers and MPs. Some have asked what these incidents say about the Government.

My answer is this: such issues come up from time to time. When they do, we deal with them properly and transparently. That is what we have always done; and that is what we have done this time too.

In one case, allegations about preferential treatment surfaced. The two Ministers concerned were thoroughly investigated, and completely exonerated.

In a second case, CPIB found cause to arrest and investigate a Minister. It opened a formal investigation, which is still ongoing.

In a third case, the Speaker of Parliament and a Government MP fell short of the standards of personal conduct expected of them. They resigned.

In all three cases, for the good of the country, we sought to do the right thing, protect the integrity of our system of government, and carry through everything that needed to be done.

Let there be no doubt: my Government is determined to keep our system free of corruption and wrongdoing. We will maintain our high standards of honesty, integrity, and propriety. Singaporeans have come to expect this of us, and so have our international partners.

This is how we can preserve, protect, and strengthen the trust that Singaporeans have in the Government and in the Singapore system.

Trust is what enabled us to get through the last three years of the pandemic and emerge stronger. Trust is what allows political leaders to work closely with Singaporeans to deliver a better life for all. And trust will enable us to move forward safely in a troubled world.

Looking to the Future

We have a full agenda ahead. DPM Lawrence Wong and the 4G team have embarked on the Forward Singapore exercise. Over the past year, they have held dialogues with thousands of Singaporeans.

The goal of Forward Singapore is to refresh our social compact. Every citizen has a meaningful part to play in our society and our shared future. Collectively, we will forge a vision of the Singapore that we seek to create, and chart how we can turn our dreams into reality.

Housing

One major aspiration of Singaporeans is housing – in particular, good and affordable public housing. HDB flats are far more than roofs over our heads. They are homes we are proud to own, neighbourhoods we raise our families in, and communities we build together.

Today, I am speaking to you from SkyOasis@Dawson, here in Queenstown, one of Singapore’s oldest towns. Some of the first SIT flats were built here, back in the 1950s. About 15 years ago, we started rejuvenating this estate: we built new HDB flats and revitalised the public spaces. Dawson is now one of our most attractive HDB estates, a shining example of the Singapore housing story.

Decade after decade, the Government has invested heavily to build affordable, accessible, and high-quality HDB flats for millions of Singaporeans.

So far, HDB has been building flats in both Mature Estates and Non-Mature Estates. Flats in Mature Estates, like Queenstown, have better amenities and locations. They are in higher demand and so generally cost more. Flats in Non-Mature Estates, on the other hand, have less comprehensive amenities, or less central locations. Therefore, they generally cost less.

But as we continue to develop more public housing, fewer and fewer undeveloped sites are left for us to build new estates. Furthermore, existing Non-Mature Estates are steadily maturing, as their transport links and amenities improve.

So in time to come, more and more new HDB flats will be built in existing estates, like here in Dawson. Such flats will naturally be in greater demand. Their launch prices and resale prices will reflect that.

But even amidst this changing landscape, we must still ensure public housing is accessible and affordable for Singaporeans of all income groups. We must also keep our housing schemes fair and inclusive for all. This is how we keep our national housing story going strong for current and future generations. This is my Government’s commitment to you, and we will deliver on it.

We will have to adjust HDB’s housing schemes to achieve these goals. We have some ideas on how to do so, which I will share at the National Day Rally.

Ageing well

While we refresh our approach to public housing, we are also making special efforts to adapt our HDB estates and flats to serve a rapidly ageing population.

Today, nearly 1 in 5 Singaporeans is a senior, aged 65 or older. By 2030, 1 in 4 will be a senior. This is one quarter of us.

And this is why we are making our estates and homes more liveable for seniors. For example, to help seniors find their way around more easily, we will install more visible signages and designs. To make their commuting safer and more comfortable, we will build more pedestrian-friendly zones and rest points. And in your homes, HDB will install more senior-friendly fixtures.

Beyond physical infrastructure, we will improve community spaces, build more Active Ageing Centres, and enhance programmes that keep seniors well and in touch with friends and neighbours in their golden years.

Another aspect of preparing for old age is CPF savings. We have progressively enhanced the CPF system, to make sure people can save enough in their working years. We are also providing targeted assistance to lower-income workers, for example through Workfare and Progressive Wages. But some older workers now in their 50s and early 60s still have not built up enough CPF savings for retirement, and can do with some extra help. I will talk about this at the Rally too.

The Government, though, can only be part of the solution. Each of us also has to do our part to stay healthy and well. Better health is better wealth. So do enrol in Healthier SG, watch our diets, stay active, and continue working as long as we can. Family members can also help: take good care of your loved ones, encourage them to get out and about, and keep an eye on their wellbeing. Together, we can help our seniors age well.

Our seniors have built up the Singapore we call home today. It is now for us to make Singapore a place where every senior can age with dignity and grace, connected to friends and family, and with their peace of mind assured. Together, we will make Singapore an endearing home for all ages. This is our vision. This is our Home.

Forward Singapore

I have spoken about housing and ageing – two topics close to our hearts. They are among the issues that DPM Wong and the 4G team are working on.

But the Forward Singapore agenda covers much more: How to equip our people with the skills to learn and succeed throughout life; how to better care for the vulnerable amongst us; and how to deepen our solidarity and Singapore spirit.

The 4G team will wrap up the Forward Singapore exercise later this year. I have every confidence DPM Wong and his team will work closely with you to take the country forward, together.

Conclusion

Often, when I meet foreign leaders, they tell me how impressed they are by Singapore. They admire our ability to think long-term, set ambitious goals, and steadily achieve our aspirations.

I tell them – this is only possible because the people and the Government work closely together. This is what gives Singapore the edge over others. This is what makes us exceptional. We must never let this bond weaken.

This National Day, as we look back on how far we have come, we can also look forward with hope. The best chapters of the Singapore story are yet to be written. Let us continue to dream boldly, work hard, and move Onward as One. Together, we can face the future with confidence.

Happy National Day!

 

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